03 March, 2010

Correspondence: George Eastman and Timothy Deakin

As always, our thanks to all our exhibition visitors who have contacted us with kind words and encouragement.   We truly appreciate your time and attention.




A recent query from a Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition visitor:
  • Andrew T. asks:  "You note that Timothy Deakin was a photographer by trade, but also characterize him as a scientist, inventor and mechanical genius.  Was he known for any important innovations in photography?"
Timothy Deakin was most certainly an accomplished and skilled studio photographer, though less so than his brothers Robert and Jack.  In the field of photography, Timothy Deakin was most interested in camera optics.  It was this area of specialization that lead to his inventing and producing numerous sets of multi-purpose goggles and other various optical related devices.

In 1886, Timothy Deakin traveled to Rochester, New York at the request of George Eastman.  Though their discussions were closely guarded and largely undocumented, it is believed that Deakin provided Eastman with numerous optical designs that Eastman in turn incorporated into his own Kodak line of cameras, the first of which was introduced in 1888.  In exchange, Deakin became a shareowner of the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company (soon to become the Eastman Kodak Company), a shrewd business maneuver that kept him financially secure for the remainder of his life.  He especially profited when Eastman completed a controversial refinancing of the company in London in 1898.  Another distinct benefit of his close relationship with Eastman was access to prototype cameras and film processes, long before such products reached the general public. Deakin quietly assisted Eastman when the company opened offices and a retail space on Oxford Street in London in 1888.  He  was also granted access to the processing laboratory at the Oxford Street location where he was able to conduct his own occasional photographic research and experimentation.
Photograph: 
Timothy Deakin standing in front of the Eastman Kodak London offices,
following relocation from Oxford Street to Clerkenwell Road.  1902. 
Courtesy of the Deakin Family Archives.

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